4 Things Every Beginner Chef Should Know

Our Chef in Your Ear experts have a host of skills between them, but one thing they’re especially great at is giving advice.

It’s taken years of mentorship, experience and training for them to learn these important lessons, but you can apply them immediately.


1. Experiment. Fail. Repeat.
“The thing about cooking is that the more you try, the more you experiment, the more you fail, the better off you’re going to be,” says Toronto-based restaurateur Craig Harding. If there’s something new you want to make, hop online, look in a book or turn on your favourite cooking show and just try it. “I still don’t know how to make everything, and if I have an idea, if I see something I like or if I taste something I enjoy and I don’t know how to make it, I always go try and figure out how to do it,” he says. “And it may fail, but then I try again.”

2. Cook from the heart.
“The best cooking advice I ever got was from a chef of mine,” says Top Chef season one runner-up Rob Rossi. “He told me that if I would always cook the dishes like I would for my family, they would always come out really well. And I think that you have to know who you’re cooking for, and appreciate them, and you’ll love the food you’re trying to make them.”

Cory Vitiello, the owner of three successful restaurants, agrees. His mentor, Scaramouche’s Keith Froggett, once told him to stop cooking what other people wanted and figure out what he loved most. “Put all your emphasis into that, and if you’re truly cooking the food that you love and you’re not worried about cooking for anybody else’s palate, that’s going to come through in your food.”

3. Taste test at every step.
“One of the things that I had done with all of the cooks [on Chef In Your Ear] is that I get them to try what they’re making every step of the way,” says Craig Harding. “Taste it when you’ve started the cooking so then you know where it is after.” If you only have the time or inclination to learn one cooking skill, focus on seasoning. “Forget about knife skills and all that,” says Harding. “Even if they can’t cut something perfectly, whatever, as long as it tastes good.”

4. Learn the basics of flavour pairing.
“If it grows together, it goes together,” says seasoned chef and business owner Devin Connell. Items that grow together in the summer – like basil and tomatoes – pair well. Same goes for winter produce like squashes, root veggies and onions, all of which are complementary. “Think about your flavours in a seasonal way, because that will never fail you,” she says.

Watch all new episodes of Chef in Your Ear Mondays at 10 E/P. Click here for full schedule.

What’s the best cooking advice you’ve ever gotten? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet us @FoodNetworkCA.

Anna Olson

Anna Olson’s Top 10 Baking Questions Answered

From correct cooking times to over-whipped egg whites, culinary expert Anna Olson answers the most asked-about questions about baking.

Anna Olson

1. What size eggs do I use when baking?
Most baking recipes, if not stated outright, want you to bake using large eggs. What bakers like about large size eggs is that they have an easy standard measure by weight. A large egg is 2 oz – the yolk is an ounce and the white is an ounce.

2. Why do baking recipes call for unsalted butter?
Using unsalted butter means YOU are in charge of the salt, especially because salt requirements vary depending on the recipe and, when using salted butter, you really don’t know how much salt you are adding. Also unsalted butter is sweeter and fresher tasting.

3. Why do dessert recipes call for salt? Do I really need to add it?
Salt is used in baking for the same reason we use it in cooking: to season. Salt tempers sweetness and elevates other flavours, like chocolate, balancing the tastes on our palate. You can omit salt in baking without compromising the chemistry in baking, except for yeast doughs. Salt slows fermentation, which is a good thing, since it allows flavour and texture to develop gradually.

4. What’s the difference between Dutch process and regular cocoa powder?
Dutch process cocoa undergoes an alkalizing treatment that removes some of the acidity, resulting in a cocoa powder that has a rich, dark colour and deep chocolate flavour. The reason some recipes specify one or the other is because of how the cocoa interacts with the leaveners (baking powder/baking soda). If a recipe doesn’t specify, then you can presume it’s fine to use either type.

5. What’s the secret to a good meringue?
Egg whites whip to a fuller volume at room temperature, and the addition of acidity (a little lemon juice or vinegar) allows the proteins in meringue to stretch, again promoting a greater volume. And guess what? You don’t need to whip your egg whites on high speed. One speed slower buys you time, so you can reach that soft, medium or stiff peak perfectly with time to judge that you got it right (lift your beaters – a big curl = soft peak, a gentle curl = medium peaks, and upright = stiff peaks)

6. What can I do if I’ve over-whipped my egg whites? Can I still use them?
You don’t want to use over-whipped egg whites because they have been stretched to their biggest volume, so when they hit the heat of the oven they will expand further and the bubbles will burst, collapsing your cake, or if in a mousse, they will collapse under the weight of the ingredients.

But you don’t have to throw away your whites and start again. Give the over-whipped whites a good 15 minutes (about the time it takes to have a cup of tea….ahhh). In that time the meringue will start to collapse and a pool of liquid will form at the bottom. Now you can re-whip the whites on MEDIUM speed (even if you’ve added sugar) to the point you missed the first time around.

7. When I whip cream and then store it, it collapses after an hour. How can I prevent this?
To stabilize whipped cream, so that it doesn’t liquefy (and so you can use it on cakes and other desserts), stir in 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of instant skim milk powder into the liquid cream when you start to whip it. It won’t change the taste or texture, but will hold every swirl and swish in place.

8. When a recipe calls for couverture or baking chocolate, can I use chocolate chips?
Unfortunately not. Chocolate chips are meant to be stirred into cookies, brownies and cakes as the last step, and are manufactured so that they hold their “chip” shape. They are not meant to be melted and then folded into cake batters, mousses or frostings. Couverture or baking chocolate is designed just for that purpose. You can find baking squares in grocery stores, but if you have a chance to buy good quality chocolate (it will specify it’s percentage of cocoa on its label), do so.

9. I have a convection oven – should I bake using the convection fan?
The function of a convection fan is to move around hot air, so that things brown evenly. This is great when you are roasting a chicken or potatoes, but not always the case with baking.

Generally I prefer to bake with the fan off, for consistent results. If you want to run the fan for things like crisps, pies and cookies, turn the thermostat 15-25°F lower to compensate. For delicate recipes like cakes, cheesecakes and custards, I always bake with the fan off.

10. When I bake, sometimes my items take longer/less time than the recipe states. Why is that?
While baking is certainly seen as a precise area of the cooking world, baking times are a bit of a variable. Ovens themselves vary dramatically, and the size of your oven, how it heats and how well it holds the temperature can greatly impact a recipe. Small ovens lose heat quickly once the oven door has opened, and other ovens can have an erratic airflow when more than one pan or tray is baking. Even my oven has “hot spots” that I have come to know over time. If baking with a convection oven, set the temperature to about 25°F cooler than the called-for temperature.

I recommend keeping a thermometer inside your oven and monitor it. Setting the oven to 350°F does not always mean it stays or reaches 350°F (or it can go above). Any wide temperature fluctuations (25°F or more) can often be fixed by calling for a service person to calibrate it. If you find that your cakes sink in the middle on a regular basis, this could be a sign that your oven temperature is fluctuating as your cakes bake – this often can be fixed with a calibration.

Many recipes, mine included, call for a temperature range because of this variability of ovens. When baking cakes, do follow the timing guidelines but also use a tester inserted into the centre of the cake to check for doneness, use colour/browning as your guide with cookies and squares and use the “jiggle” test to check cheesecakes and custards (they should still jiggle in the centre when gently moved).

Watch all new episodes of Bake with Anna Olson Sundays at 12 E/P. Click here for full schedule.

Top 10 Things to Add to Your Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Who doesn’t love a heaping bowl of mac and cheese? According to a very unscientific study conducted in our mouths, it’s the world’s most soul-soothing comfort food. As classic as it is, sometimes we can’t help but want to add a little oomph to our mac and cheese. From chili to lobster to bacon, we’ve rounded up our favourite things to add to mac and cheese, for those days you’re feeling adventurous. 888_10-things-to-add-to-mac-and-cheese

1. Bacon Mac ‘n’  Cheese 

2. Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

3. Tuna Melt Mac ‘n’ Cheese

4. Tomato Mac and Cheese with Italian Sausage

5. Bacon Burger Mac ‘n’ Cheese

6. Chili Mac ‘n’  Cheese 

7. Aged Cheddar and Parmesan Mac ‘n’ Cheese 

8. Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese 

9. Sloppy Joe and Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bread Bowl 

10. Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Mac and Cheese


9 Ways with Spinach, Feta and Onion

This popular combo is not only delicious, but it’s healthy and super versatile. These dishes are also a wonderful way to get the kids to eat some spinach as they’ll have a hard time saying no to these irresistibly cheesy sides and mains. Check out these simple and tasty recipes using spinach, feta and onion.888_9-ways-with-spinach-feta-onions

1. Robin’s Hash

2. Mediterranean Spinach and Basil Frittata

3. Spinach Feta Rice

4. Spanakopita

5. Spinach and Lemon Risotto

6. Lemon Orzo with Baby Spinach and Feta

7. Spinach Pie

8. Spinach and Paneer Turnovers

9. Crepes with Feta Scrambled Eggs and Salsa

Healthy Peanut Butter and Jam Squares

This delectable sweet and healthy dessert comes from Toronto’s own earth and city. Oats, almonds and dates are mixed together for the base, then topped with a layer of natural peanut butter blended with banana and sea salt, a layer of jam and finished off with the remaining crumble.


Ingredients (makes 12 squares):

3 1/2 cups gluten-free oats
2 1/2 cups raw almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 cups dates, pitted

2 cups natural peanut butter
2 ripe bananas
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cups dates, pitted
2 Tbsp water
1 cup jam of your choice
3 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)


1. Grind almonds in a food processor until it becomes a fine meal and place into a mixing bowl. Grind oats the same way, then add the almond meal back in.
2. Add cinnamon and sea salt, and with the food processor running add in dates a few at a time, until the mixture starts to come together. Press 3/4 of this mixture into a parchment lined 9″ x 13″ pan.


3. Blend peanut butter, bananas and sea salt together in a food processor.
4. In the same style as the almonds/oats mixture, feed the dates in a few at a time until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture seems too thick to spread with a spatula, add a little water as necessary.
5. Spread this mixture over the pressed base in the pan.
6. You can mix chia seeds into the jam if you like, then spread the jam over top of the peanut butter layer.


7. Then add the remaining crumble on top.
8. Refrigerate overnight and cut into squares. Store squares in the fridge to prevent melting.



See more from hot for food on their YouTube channel.

Sophisticated Cabbage From a Country Kitchen

By Rosemary Martin, as told to Jasmine Mangalaseril

As the eldest of eight children to a Mennonite family in Waterloo County, Ont., Rosemary Martin helped her mother prepare “company meals” for up to 30 people every other Sunday for most of her life. Today, Rosemary’s Company Cabbage is a favourite that appears at family suppers and special meals with friends.


When I was growing up, we attended our home church every other Sunday; in between, we would visit another church in the area. For those weeks when we were at our home church, we would invite visitors for lunch, which was the main meal of the day. As our family alone was 10 people, plus two more similar-sized families or three smaller families were in attendance, there would easily be up to 30 for “company meals.” A casserole or stew, bread (always bread!) or rolls and butter were served, and we usually had green salads and jellied salads, too. I abhorred jellied salads, and my dad didn’t like them, either, but a lot of people did (it was a big thing back then). Desserts tended to be 13- by 9-inch pans of refrigerator or freezer desserts, and Mom loved to make chiffon cakes, so we would often have three. We wouldn’t mind if there were leftovers!

When it was just our family, we tended to eat fairly basic meals, partially because of our culture and partially because there were 10 of us. But they consisted of fresh or frozen homegrown vegetables and locally sourced meats—either smoked ham or summer sausage, and every now and then, a roast chicken or a roast beef.

I’m not a traditional Mennonite cook. As long as I can remember, I have liked a variety of foods and experimenting. I would beg Mom to vary from her routines because I quickly tired of eating the same foods three Sundays in a row. I learned more about food when I started eating out at higher-end restaurants with friends and by reading recipe books like they were novels with pictures. But I do credit my father for my plating skills. He always said, “Food first has to pass by my eyes before it reaches my stomach,” so I learned to serve food attractively from him.

I love cabbage in almost every form. I love cabbage soup and sauerkraut, of course. Growing up, cabbage was typically used in coleslaw or as wedges, cooked with roast beef or roast chicken. My grandma would pickle whole wedges with whole cloves or a pickling spice, vinegar, sugar and water. She cooked it until tender, marinated it in brine for several days, then kept it chilled. It was really good.

My Company Cabbage recipe is not a typical Mennonite recipe. I found it in a magazine and tweaked it over the years. You can do all the shredding and chopping the night before, then cook it in about five minutes just before serving. People are usually surprised they like it because it’s cabbage, but it has a delicious unique flavour because of the nuts, the mustard and the dill. Savoy cabbage gives you that nice curly edge. That and the green onions combine so you have light springy-summery colours.

Company Cabbage, courtesy of Rosemary Martin


Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

2 tsp (10 mL) chicken bouillon
4 cups (1 L) coarsely shredded green or Savoy cabbage
½ cup (125 mL) shredded carrots
¼ cup (60 mL) chopped celery root or celery
¼ cup (60 mL) sliced green onions or chopped shallots
½ tsp (2 mL) dried dillweed (or 1½ tsp/7 mL fresh)
3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped pecans
1 tbsp (15 mL) melted butter
½ tsp (2 mL) prepared mustard
⅛ tsp (0.5 mL) pepper

1. In large saucepan, heat 1/3 cup/75 mL water over medium-high; add chicken bouillon, stirring until dissolved. Add cabbage, carrots, celery root, green onions and dillweed, stirring to combine. Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes, stirring slightly, until tender.

2. Stir together pecans, butter, mustard and pepper. Pour over cabbage mixture; tossing to combine.

Click to print, save or share this Company Cabbage recipe.

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Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes

This is the easiest brunch ever because nothing here is made from scratch. Just get your favourite vegan pancake mix and add non-dairy milk, plus whatever add-ins you like — fresh blueberries, peaches, cranberries, or chocolate chips and banana slices!


Ingredients (makes 8):
1 cup Coyote Flaxseed Pancake & Waffle Mix
1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk
1 banana, sliced into rounds
1/4 cup chocolate chips or raw cacao nibs
2-3 Tbsp vegan butter for frying

1. In a mixing bowl combine the pancake mix with non-dairy milk. It should be a runny consistency if you want nice, thin, evenly cooked pancakes. If you want them fluffy by all means leave out the extra 1/2 cup of liquid. I just find they’re never cooked in the middle when you do this. Then fold in chocolate chips and banana slices.
2. Heat a non-stick pan to medium heat and when it’s hot use a paper towel to spread a small amount of vegan butter on the bottom surface of the pan. It should sizzle.
3. Take a 1/4 cup of pancake batter and pour it in the centre of the pan. Once the surface starts to bubble a lot then you can flip the pancake over and cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes. Continue until all the pancakes are made.


– I like to keep them warm by placing the finished pancakes on a baking sheet in the oven heated to 200°F.
– We also tried Yves Veggie Breakfast Links and fried those in 2 teaspoons of maple syrup so they tasted restaurant style and… Voila! Breakfast is served.

See more from hot for food on their YouTube channel.

Caramelized Onion & Blue Cheese Crostini

So you’re having some friends over for fancy cocktails and tasty snacks. You’re looking for a good recipe that looks sophisticated, but is quick and easy to make.

Caramelizing onions takes time and patience. Do not let anyone tell you differently. When onions are caramelized to their deepest, they’re super sweet and jam-like, absolutely perfect paired with a savoury, pungent blue cheese. In this recipe, I used Stilton blue cheese because I find the slight acidity cuts the sweetness of the onions nicely. It’s a semi-hard cheese and will hold up to thin slicing. I finished the crostini with a drizzle of balsamic reduction for added punch and acidity, but that’s optional.


Something to note about the crostini: buy a fresh, crusty baguette and slice it right before you’re going to crisp it up, and cut it diagonally to create more surface area for the toppings to sit on. Slice the baguette ¾” to 1” thick and toast the slices on only one side to ensure there will be a great crunch as well as a soft interior.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 10 min
Serving Size: 15 crostini



For the caramelized onions:
6 medium to large yellow onions, sliced ¼” thick
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ Tbsp olive oil
2 big pinches salt
1 tbsp dry red wine or balsamic vinegar
Fresh black pepper

For the crostini:
1 fresh baguette, cut ¾” thick on the bias
Olive oil
Maldon Salt
Fresh black pepper

75 g – 100 g Stilton blue cheese
Balsamic vinegar reduction, optional



For the caramelized onions:
1. Heat butter and olive oil in a sauté pan with lid over medium-low to low heat.
2. Add the onions to the pan and cover with lid.
3. Cook the onions for 25 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. They will soften and slowly start to brown.
4. Remove lid, season with 2 pinches of salt and continue cooking for 30-40 minutes, stirring often until onions turn a very deep caramel colour.
5. At this point, deglaze the pan with red wine and continue to cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
6. Turn the heat off and season with fresh black pepper.

For the crostini:
1. Pre-heat the oven broiler on high and place the oven rack in the top third of the oven
2. Place the baguette slices onto a sheet tray and drizzle generously with olive oil. Season with a good amount of Maldon or another flaky salt, and fresh black pepper.
3. Place under broiler and toast for 1 ½ – 2 minutes until just golden brown around the edges. Keep an eye on them so they do not over toast!
4. Slice blue cheese into thin pieces. You can then break up the slices into smaller pieces that will lie nicely on top of the onions.
5. Arrange the toasted baguette on a serving dish, top with 1 Tbsp caramelized onions, a piece of blue cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction.


100x100_Danielle-Oron Danielle is a chef, bakery owner, and food blogger who thinks she’s Korean, but is actually Israeli. Also, Danielle does not eat like a lady.

Brussels Sprouts Even The Pickiest Eaters Will Love

Brussels sprouts have always been one of the most feared vegetables among kids and it’s usually because they’ve only tried one version at home: boiled to a miserable soggy, mushy mess, with no flavour at all. Thankfully in recent years chefs have been doing this vegetable justice, browning the leaves to give them a crispy crunch, adding accoutrements like nuts and maple syrup, and pairing the otherwise bland vegetable with a bit of fat from umami bombs like bacon and cheese.

Here’s an easy way to serve up this cruciferous vegetable that’s loaded with vitamins K and C. Yes, it uses a bit of pancetta and butter, so it’ll never be as healthy as just steaming them, but then again, would you rather eat them without any flavour?

If you have a bit more time on your hands, you can also roast Brussels sprouts for 30-40 minutes at 400°F after tossing them in a light coat of olive oil. But below is the quicker version perfect for a weeknight dinner.


Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Parmesan

(serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main)

1 pound (4 cups) Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed, and halved
1/3 cups pancetta cubes
1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter
2 tsp maple syrup
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, for garnish


1. In a pot of salted boiling water, blanch the Brussels sprouts for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
2. In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter. When it starts to brown, add the Brussels sprouts and stir occasionally. Continue cooking until the sprouts start to brown, 6-8 minutes.
3. Add the pancetta and cook until they start to brown and crisp up, 3-4 minutes. Pour in the maple syrup and gently toss. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Pour into a serving dish and grate a bit of parmesan cheese on top. Serve immediately.

734863_10151322355189438_2070375187_n Karon Liu is a freelance food writer based in Toronto who is slightly lactose intolerant but will otherwise eat and cook anything.

Simple Butternut Squash Tart

This dessert makes me happy because, well, it’s dessert and dessert is delicious! This butternut squash tart is a little bit sweet, a little savoury and is a great way to showcase in-season butternut squash.

Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 mins
Serves: 8



374 g (1 2/3 cup) butternut squash purée
2 eggs
120 g (3/5 cup) brown sugar
6 grams (1 tsp) salt
350 g (1 1/2 cup) cream
Zest of 1 orange

Tart Shell
360 g (3 cups)flour
17g (1 Tbsp) sugar
2 g (pinch) salt
227 g (1 cup) butter
1 egg
4 Tbsp cold water
Splash of white vinegar
Couple pinches of thyme

1. Cut butternut squash in half, cover in tinfoil and roast in oven at 400°F until tender, about 30-40 minutes (depending on the size of the squash).
2. Once roasted, let squash cool, then remove skin, and puree in blender or food processor.
3. In a blender, add ingredients for tart, mixing until smooth.
4. In a mixing bowl, add flour, sugar, salt, then rub the butter in by hand until it forms a sandy consistency, then add in the wet ingredients and a couple pinches of thyme, mixing until a dough forms. Form dough into a ball and wrap in saran wrap, allowing to sit in the fridge for at least an hour.
5. Once the dough has cooled, preheat oven to 350°F.
6. Roll dough flat until about ¼ inch thick, then place and press into tart shell, pour filling into shell, and bake for 20-30 minutes until filling is set, and tart shell is lightly browned.
7. Top with some whipped cream, sweetened to taste with maple syrup!

100x100_BS Carlene and Bob Deutscher are the dynamic sibling duo behind BS’ in the Kitchen. While Carlene leans towards the sweeter side of things, baking up delicious desserts, you can count on Bob to cook up something savoury! Aside from blogging on BS’ in the Kitchen, Carlene works in marketing & communications, and sidelines as a lifestyle & wedding photographer, while Bob operates his own media company, with a focus on food photography, and videography! Carlene and Bob Deutscher are part of the Lifestyle Blog Network family.

How to Make Any Salad Dressing Using Two Basic Recipes

Eating salad without dressing is like a dinner party without guests — dull and lifeless. But with a splash of vinegar, a glug of oil and a few other ingredients, you can transform those ho-hum greens into something vibrant, fresh and delicious.


Grilled Romaine with Balsamic Dressing from Valerie’s Home Cooking

There are two basic types of savoury salad dressing: the basic French vinaigrette, an emulsion of oil and vinegar, and creamy dressing, an emulsion of oil and egg yolks. Most (if not all) salad dressings derive from these two types.

Basic Vinaigrette

1/3 balsamic vinegar
2/3 olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp minced garlic
salt, pepper and sugar to taste

You can substitute or use a combination of red wine, tarragon, white and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice for the acidic base. Similarly, you can use a combination of different oils to suit your palate, and honey or maple syrup can be substituted for sugar. If you find the taste of raw garlic too strong, just rub a clove along the inside your salad bowl for a hint of garlic flavour.

Once you master the basic vinaigrette, you can experiment by adding different ingredients, from fresh herbs and grated Parmesan cheese, to Worcestershire sauce and even a dollop of ketchup. Host of French Food at Home Laura Calder adds drops of soy sauce and a pinch of beef stock powder to give her French vinaigrette an extra kick.

For best results, use good quality ingredients. Blend all the ingredients and let the mixture stand in a wooden bowl before adding greens. Over time, your wooden salad bowl will be seasoned with your favourite flavours.

Creamy Dressing

Many creamy salad dressings include mayonnaise as an ingredient. You can make mayonnaise using a whisk or even a fork, but it is very labour intensive since you need to whisk the mixture non-stop. For best results, use an electric mixer, blender or food processor. Here’s a simple mayonnaise recipe by Laura Calder:

1 egg yolk, at room temperature
pinch salt
½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 cup grape seed oil (or vegetable, canola or peanut)
lemon juice, to taste
pinch white pepper

Whisk together the egg yolk, salt, mustard, and vinegar in a roomy bowl. To add the oil, start whisking the yolk mixture and let the oil fall from the spout, drop by drop, until you have achieved a thick, velvety mayonnaise. Taste it. Add lemon juice, salt, and white pepper to taste.

Homemade mayonnaise may taste strong for people accustomed to commercial mayonnaise. You can lessen the taste by adding some plain yogurt. Homemade mayonnaise will refrigerate for three to four days. Mayo can be difficult to master, as it often curdles, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it.

Then from this basic recipe, you can make many more creamy dressing, such as Chipotle Ranch Dressing, Citrus Aioli and Thousand Island Dressing. For the latter, just add ketchup, white vinegar, sweet pickles and seasoning.

Want more salad dressing ideas? Here are 40 salad dressing recipes to try!

The Vegan Doughnut Named After Tofino’s Mayor

By Duane Bell, as told to Alex Mlynek

When Duane Bell opened Tofino, B.C.’s Rhino Coffee House in December 2013, he decided to honour community members with a doughnut-of-the-month and a contribution of $100 to a cause in the person’s name. The first recipient was Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne, who was celebrated with the vegan Josie Jelly Donut. The mayor, herself a vegan, chose the local SPCA as her charity. Thanks to its immense popularity, Bell made this strawberry jelly–filled doughnut a permanent fixture on Rhino’s menu, further immortalizing Mayor Osborne in the form of a delicious treat.

Duane Bell

Duane Bell

When I started Rhino, I really wanted it to be a community coffeehouse. I’ve been a part of a lot of different communities and have seen so many hardworking people who put extra effort into making things happen. The doughnut-of-the-month was my way of giving thanks to this community. We now have a voting system in the coffeehouse, where people decide on an outstanding volunteer, but for the first one, we didn’t have that option, so I did a small survey with the locals. Everybody loves our mayor, Josie Osborne—she’s a really outstanding person—so we decided to name our first doughnut after her.

One late night, Rhino’s chef, Ron Weeks, and I were working on different recipes and I brought up the fact that I’d like to give Josie the compliment of being our first doughnut-of-the-month. So Ron and I collaborated: He came up with the recipe, and I came up with the name. And because I had been a chef and fooled around with vegan recipes a bit more than Ron had, I suggested he try to substitute the eggs with flaxseeds soaked in water.

Josie was definitely very happy and honoured. Before we opened, we got some photos with her and the doughnut. The first people she sent them to were her folks.

When I first tried a Josie Jelly, I grabbed one, bit into it and thought, “Wow, it’s delicious!” You’ve got this nice crispy outer crust covered in cinnamon sugar, then you get doughnut fluffiness and the homemade jelly: strawberry coulis with a hint of lime that we thicken a bit more so it doesn’t spill out everywhere. I had no idea that the recipe would develop that nice crunchiness on the outside. It’s quite a pleasant surprise because none of the other yeast-rising or cake doughnuts we make have that texture.

I’m from Southampton, Ont., near Owen Sound. I was born in Scarborough in Toronto’s east end, but my dad’s an engineer with Ontario Hydro, and he was at Bruce Power, a nuclear generator site out there, so I grew up in small-town Ontario, then moved to Toronto when I was 18. I learned a lot about food from my dad, who enjoys cooking at home. Our family is a very male cooking–dominated kind of family: It’s the men in the kitchen at Christmastime in charge of preparing the big feast.

My dad cooked in the navy. He was in the U.S. navy and cooked a lot of southern food, so I grew up with jambalayas and similar dishes. He’s very, very proud of his corn bread. And my mom’s German, so we also ate a lot of sauerkraut, very stinky cheeses and different pork dishes. My dad’s side is British, so it was definitely roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at Grandma’s house.

There’s a large hippie background to Tofino. It started with the draft dodgers, and the culture grew from there. People—even tourists—are more aware of nature here, with the whale-watching and beauty of nature. This leads to a lifestyle that includes a greater consciousness of consumption in respect to the environment, sustainability, whether food is organic or local, and so on. The food awareness in this community is beyond anywhere I’ve ever seen.

Josie Jelly Donuts, courtesy of Duane Bell


Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 ¾ hours
Yield: 12 to 15 doughnuts

6 cups (1.5 L) fresh or frozen strawberries
2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 mL) cornstarch
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
½ tsp (2 mL) salt

3 tbsp (45 mL) vegan margarine
3 tbsp (45 mL) vegetable shortening
½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (30 mL) packed brown sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 tsp (5 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
2 tbsp (30 mL) ground flax seeds, soaked in ½ cup (125 mL) hot water
2 cups (500 mL) almond milk
4 cups (1 L) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh yeast
1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder
12 cups (3 L) canola oil

1. In heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat, cook strawberries and sugar until 220°F (105°C).
2. Make a slurry by whisking together cornstarch, lime zest, lime juice and ½ cup (125 mL) water.
3. Add slurry to berry mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and is boiling for at least 1 minute.
4. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and salt. Scrape into blender; pulse until smooth. Spread on sheet pan to cool.

1. In bowl, cream together margarine, shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and salt. Stir in flaxseeds. Pour in almond milk.
2. In separate bowl, crumble yeast into flour. Stir in baking powder.
3. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 48 hours.
4. On floured surface, roll out dough to ½-inch (1 cm) thickness; using 4-inch (10 cm) round cutter, cut out rounds, re-rolling scraps, if necessary.
5. In heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil to 375°F (190°C). Drop in rounds and fry, in batches, for 90 seconds. Flip with chopsticks; fry for another 90 seconds.
6. Remove to rack to cool. Once cool, cut small hole in side of each; pipe jelly into middle.

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A West Coast Bannock Story

GccGy Marnie Helliwell, as told to Nancy Fornasiero

Bannock is a staple enjoyed across the country by native Canadians, and each tribe—even each family—has their own favourite version. It’s also known as frybread, bannaq, galett and sapli’l. This particular recipe was passed on to Tofino, B.C.’s Marnie Helliwell in the traditional First Nations way: via word of mouth. It came from her friend, Grace George, who received the recipe from her own mother, Helen.

Marnie Helliwell

Marnie Helliwell

Ever since my seven-year-old son, Colby, first tasted bannock at Wickaninnish Community School back in kindergarten, he can’t stop talking about it. He learned about it thanks to Grace, a local First Nations woman and elder who works at our elementary school as a First Nations education assistant. She teaches the kids about the culture and history of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. Whether she’s sharing food, teaching about traditional dances and songs or telling a folktale, we parents (native or not) appreciate the fact that she shares her rich heritage with our kids. But nothing gets Colby more excited than when Grace makes a visit to make bannock. “Mom,” he comes home gushing, “Grace makes the bestest bannock!”

So, when my friend Lisa Ahier, the chef at Tofino’s popular SoBo restaurant, organized a potluck dinner and told us each to bring a Canadian dish that meant something special to us, I knew right away what I was bringing: bannock. Nothing says Canada to me more than this dish; and besides, my kids love to eat it probably more than anything else.

Full disclosure: I’m not much of a cook. In the past, when we’ve enjoyed bannock as a family, it was usually because Grace made it or because we ate it during our travels around the province. Bannock is often served at local festivals, sold at farmers markets and dished up at celebrations hosted by the First Nations families in our tight-knit community. My kids and I make a point of sampling it any time we can—and the consensus is that Grace’s Nuu-chah-nulth recipe is the ultimate version. I decided it was time to fully embrace this dish and learn to make it myself!

Grace has become a good friend of mine, so I was pretty sure I could get my hands on the recipe. All the same, I followed the proper First Nations etiquette of formally requesting the family recipe from an elder. (Luckily Grace is an elder!) I couldn’t believe how simple the recipe was: only four ingredients.

The really funny part was when I popped over to the Tofino Co-op to buy the ingredients and caused a bit of a ruckus. I bumped into another Nuu-chah-nulth lady I know and innocently asked what sort of oil I should buy. “Oil?!” she shouted. “Why are you using oil? Biscuits have fat in them, bannock doesn’t!” Other Nuu-chah-nulth shoppers heard the fuss, then they gathered around, adding their two cents’ worth:

“Yes, you can use oil, just don’t overmix!”

“My grandmother always said to use high heat if you want a good crust.”

“Water’s fine; no need to use milk.”

“Mother always fried it at our house.”

Clearly, there are a lot of bannock recipes out there, but I knew if I wanted to keep Colby happy, I’d better stick to Grace’s instructions. While the bannock baked, Colby and my daughter, Mackenzie, impatiently inhaled the delicious aroma, and when we dove into it, still warm from the oven, they said it was as good as Grace’s. Phew.

The next time I made it, it was for the whole gang at Lisa’s paddleboarding potluck dinner. It was a huge hit with my girlfriends, too, especially when served with jam made from local berries. Not bad, for a non-baker like me!

I love this dish even though I don’t have a drop of aboriginal blood. The culture of our native peoples really means a lot to me—their traditions, their respect for nature. Their sense of spirituality especially lands with me: When my son Braeden passed away a few years ago, we had a beautiful service based on the Nuu-chah-nulth culture that brought me a lot of comfort.

First Nations culture is so interwoven into our lives here that I feel a part of it. It’s hard for people outside Tofino to understand that. It’s really something special.

Read more: See three simple ways to cook bannock here.

Traditional Bannock, courtesy of Marnie Helliwell


Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Yield: 8 to 12 servings

6 cups (1.5 L) flour
6 tbsp (90 mL) baking powder
3½ cups (875 mL) milk, warmed
¼ cup (60 mL) vegetable oil

1. In large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, milk and oil. Stir until dough comes together in a ball; do not overmix. Shape into rough oval; place on baking sheet or oven-safe casserole dish.
2. Bake in 400°F (200°C) oven “until a beautiful golden brown,” about 30 minutes.
3. Serve warm or cooled. Excellent with B.C. blackberry jam.

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The Berry Crumble Recipe That Makes Her Think of Mom

By April Robson, as told to Kate Paddison

April Robson is a Tofino, B.C.-based yoga instructor, mom to daughter Waverly and self-proclaimed “jammer,” teaching how to preserve local fruits and vegetables and how to make yogurt at local reskilling festivals. Her recipe for berry crumble with homemade yogurt is very dear to her heart: Robson’s mother died when she was 11 years old, but fond memories of her mom’s berry crumble help Robson feel close to her again.


My mom used this recipe for berry crumble and homemade yogurt quite often in her kitchen. It’s a recipe so familiar to me I don’t really even think about it when I’m making it myself; it kind of comes through naturally. I love this recipe because it can be made in all seasons, all across the country. There is no special berry; you can use the wild berries from your yard or you can use frozen berries. You can make this for everyday or a special occasion, plus it travels well for a potluck. It’s an easy go-to recipe—warm and homey.

My mom was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 42 years old. It came on very suddenly, and within a year of her being diagnosed, she passed.

I can remember her essence. I remember her in the kitchen, teaching me to cook, preparing certain dishes, such as this one. And now, I feel really attached to the things I had in my childhood, specifically cooking, because it’s a way for me to connect with her.

I grew up not far from Tofino on a float house, which is a home on a dock. We were right on the ocean and my parents owned an oyster farm. We ate a lot of seafood—clams, fish, crab—and a lot of fresh greens because my mom had a garden on the dock. We were essentially a mini floating homestead that relied on solar power and lived completely off the grid.

We did a lot of our own things, such as harvesting wild food, plus what my mother had grown on the dock. We also had chickens. There was no running water, so we had to haul up our own or use rainwater. My family’s favourite restaurant in my town at the time was one we went to only a couple of times a year because we had so much already available to us.

As a kid, I fought to get out of that life. I wanted to get away and have a normal yard and running water and a bathtub. Now, I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to get back to those roots, which is why I really enjoy baking and foraging. In the summer, we have four kinds of berries in the front yard, and it’s extremely easy to go around and pick them.

My mom and dad taught me how to provide for my family, how to make healthy homemade meals from the earth. The way our planet is going, it’s really important for our children to be connected to our food, the land and the environment. It’s all supported by each other, and if we don’t take care of our food system now, we won’t have it for very long. It’s important to me that my kids have the same feeling about a healthy relationship with their food and their environment.

See more: Watch Lynn, April and baby Waverly make this berry crumble at home.

Wild Berry Crumble with Homemade Yogurt, courtesy of April Robson


Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Yields: about 6 servings

Wild Berry Crumble
1 cup (250 mL) flour
1 cup (250 mL) packed dark brown or Demerara sugar
½ cup (125 mL) salted butter (if you prefer unsalted butter, add 1 tsp/5 mL salt to flour mixture), cubed
1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon or other desired spices (optional)
4 cups (1 L) berries and/or sliced fruit (any assortment of berries or seasonal fruit, such as apples, pears or stone fruits, will work great)
juice of ? lemon

Homemade Greek-Style Yogurt
4 cups (1 L) 10% or 18% cream or table cream
1 pkg yogurt culture or 3 oz (85 g) plain Greek yogurt (if using store-bought yogurt as a starter, scrape off surface layer and use yogurt underneath; it will likely have a higher concentration of healthy bacteria)

Wild Berry Crumble
1. In bowl, mix together flour and brown sugar. Stir in cinnamon, if using.
2. Using pastry blender or 2 knives, roughly cut in butter into flour mixture. Using hands, further incorporate butter until mixture is well moistened.
3. Add lemon juice to berry mixture, tossing to coat. (If using especially juicy or frozen fruit, toss with 1 tbsp/15 mL flour to prevent runniness.)
4. Add berry mixture to baking dish; spread flour mixture evenly over top. Bake in 375°F (190°C) oven for 45 to 60 minutes or until topping is evenly browned and filling is bubbling up around sides.

Homemade Greek-Style Yogurt
1. Boil water in large nonreactive pot for 10 minutes to sterilize; discard water. Set pot aside to cool for 5 minutes.
2. Pour cream into pot over medium-low heat; cook until just before boiling point. (Heat should be low enough that cream doesn’t scald while being hot enough to raise temperature.) Do not stir cream. Remove from heat.
3. Allow cream to cool until you can comfortably hold pot without burning hands, when temperature reaches about 110°F to 115°F (43°C to 46°C). (This can take a few hours, but if you add yogurt culture to cream while it’s still too hot, it will curdle and yogurt won’t set.)
4. Using ladle, scoop a bit of cream into small bowl; add yogurt culture and mix until well combined. If skin has formed on top of cream, remove with fork and discard. (Remember to sterilize all utensils in boiling water before using.)
5. Add yogurt culture mixture to pan; stir well but gently as to not create foam.
6. Pour inoculated cream into 2 sterilized 2-cup (500 mL) canning jars; place in warm environment, such as yogurt maker or bread proofer for 8 for 10 hours or until yogurt is firm. Keep at about 110°F (43°C)—or as close to it as possible—the entire time.
7. Set on counter until room temperature.
8. Refrigerate until chilled. Serve with Wild Berry Crumble.

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Grocery Shopping Tips From Chefs: When to Splurge, When to Save


Say what you like about the latest “it” ingredients, but you can’t feed a family on truffle salt, and knowing when to save – and when to splurge – is as important for home chefs as it is for professionals.

Thankfully our Chef In Your Ear stars were eager to share their tips on which items they never feel bad splurging on. Save your spare dollars for these key ingredients so you can save elsewhere.

Splurge on…

1. Meats, fish and proteins

Most of our Chef In Your Ear experts mentioned meats, fish and proteins as worthy splurges, but Rob Rossi offered specific advice on how to get the freshest quality. “Not all grocery stores are great,” he says. “Some of them are better for produce and [then] you go to the meat aisles and you just don’t find stuff that you want. And that’s why I think you should completely separate your shopping. Go to the butcher’s, visit your fish market. Because the one stop shop [is] convenient, but it’s not always the way to go.”

2. Olive oil and vinegar

Our chefs agree that good olive oil is a must, but Craig Harding adds that a quality vinegar can also take your cooking from ho-hum to yum, whether it’s an aged balsamic, rice wine or red wine vinegar.

3. Herbs, spices, and seasonings, including salt and pepper

“Don’t cheap out on saffron, don’t cheap out on paprika, don’t cheap out on vanilla,” says Harding. “Those things that are expensive in your pantry? Well, there’s a reason.” To ease your financial burden and get the most out of your herbs, spices and seasonings, he suggests buying in small batches. “Buy fresh and don’t buy too much, because things don’t last long. Buy what you need and buy it frequently.”

4. Fresh produce

“When I’m cooking [I] put a lot of emphasis on the vegetable components of the dish,” says Cory Vitiello. “For me, that means going to the market, figuring out what’s in season and selecting the best produce.” Jordan Andino adds that it’s important to spend money on items “that are less cooked,” like salad greens. “So, the more cooking you do and the longer something cooks, the less money you need to spend on it. And it’s a completely inverted scale. So more time, then less money; more money, less time.”

Save on…

1. Items that take a long time to cook

It’s likely that your favourite slow-cooker recipes are also some of the most economical items in your repertoire, so if you’re looking to cut back on your grocery budget, plan to increase the number of Crock-Pot meals you serve. Long-cooking beef cuts include brisket, short ribs and stew cubes; pork shoulder and lamb shanks are also good meat choices, while dried beans and legumes are time-consuming (but delicious) veggie proteins.

2. Dry goods and flours

Go ahead and buy the good stuff if you can afford it, but “you don’t necessarily” need to, says Harding. Average-quality dry goods are easily elevated with awesome oils and superior spices.

What are your favourite items to splurge on, and where do you find the best savings? Share with us in the comments below.

Watch Chef In Your Ear Mondays 10 E/P. Click here for full schedule.

Devon Scoble is a Toronto writer and food lover who specializes in approachable home cooking. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @devonscoble.

Creamy Vegan Mushroom Fettuccine Alfredo

Sometimes all you need is a big bowl of creamy, comforting pasta for dinner. This week, shake things up with this healthy, vegan and gluten-free take on fettuccine alfredo: it incorporates all the great flavours of white wine and mushrooms, but we’ve replaced the dairy with cashews and veggie stock for the sauce!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Makes: 4 servings


400 g brown rice fettuccine noodles
1 ½ cups raw cashews (soaked for 3 hours minimum)
1 cup water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup finely chopped white onion
2 large portobello mushroom caps, thinly sliced
4 cups thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
4 cups fresh baby spinach
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup vegetable stock
½ cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried parsley
2 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook noodles to al dente. If using brown rice pasta, you’ll need to rinse the noodles when draining to keep the firm texture. Just before adding them to the sauce, rinse them again with cold water to prevent them from sticking to the pot.
2. Meanwhile, rinse and drain cashews from soaking water and add to a high-powered blender along with water, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. Blend until very smooth.
3. In a large pan over medium heat, sauté onion in olive oil for 2 minutes until soft and fragrant.
4. Add mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes. When mushrooms are half cooked and start to release some moisture, stir in minced garlic, sea salt and ground pepper, and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
5. Once mushrooms have shrunk and released all their water, add white wine and simmer for 7 minutes.
6. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in fresh basil and dried parsley, and cook for 1 minute.
7. Mix in the cashew cream, spinach and slowly stir in 1 cup of vegetable stock, stirring for about 4 minutes.
8. Add noodles to the pan and toss to combine everything well, coating noodles in sauce, for 3 minutes.
9. Top with vegan parmesan cheese and more ground pepper or sea salt as desired. Serve immediately.

Tip: If reheating leftovers, heat in a pan adding small amounts of vegetable stock, a bit at a time, while tossing the noodles to thin out the sauce again.

See more from hot for food on their YouTube channel.

The Seared Tuna Worth Walking 316 Kilometres For

By Quoashinis “Cosy” Lawson, as told to Crys Stewart

Cosy Lawson is proud of balancing her job in speech and language development for preschool-aged children with raising her family. She teaches her kids what she was taught growing up, from catching and preparing fish to protecting the ocean’s bounty. So when she and her young daughter made headlines in 2010 by walking to Vancouver Island’s capital to raise awareness for declining salmon numbers, she took it all in stride.

I was born on a beach on Wickaninnish Island, just off of Tofino, B.C. My mom just couldn’t bring herself to go to the hospital, and besides, our neighbours were doctors and nurses. I think she had more doctors there than she would’ve had in a regular hospital room. So I was born, literally, on the beach under the sun. My name comes from a gentleman named Joe David from the Clayoquot band; he gave me that name when I was born. It means “raven” in the Nuu-chah-nulth language.

Growing up, the only form of transportation off the island was either a rowboat or you borrowed my dad’s boat and learned how to drive it. From a very early age, we were given all the tools and the encouragement to perform everything we could alongside our parents. My job in the family was to provide the fish. My dad taught us all how to fish, but I was the one who absolutely enjoyed it. Every waking hour, I was out there bringing home the fish.

I’ve witnessed the fish numbers decline over the years. Back in 2010, we’d heard about this group of people who were going to walk from Port Hardy to Victoria to raise awareness about declining fish stocks. Over dinner, I said that would be a huge cause near and dear to my heart and that I’d really like to walk part of it. My daughter said, “Well, I think we should walk it all.” Of course, I went into “I’ve got work! I’ve got kids! I’ve got responsibilities!” mode, but when I woke up the next morning and realized this was a very important matter to her as well, I decided we should walk the entire 316-kilometre route together.

From Tofino, it’s a winding road with not much of a shoulder, but my parents, husband and son were in our support vehicle. It took about two weeks to complete the journey. By the time we got down to the island highway, communities were welcoming us, and we marched into Victoria along with 7,000 or 8,000 people. My daughter turned 12 on the steps of the parliament buildings the day we arrived. Afterward, I heard all the walkers among us ended up shutting down the main part of Victoria for many, many hours.

I want to teach my kids the things that were instilled in us growing up: respect for our environment, our resources, never taking more than you can eat. We go out once a year for the tuna and get enough for my whole family. I was taught to make sure I thanked anything that gave its life for my food and make sure nothing goes to waste. I don’t think we’d be the same people without making sure those things are passed on.

I have a big family—my two sisters and their families, my two brothers and my parents—and, often, good friends who are like family join us as well. We get together quite often, and 99 per cent of the time, it’s spur of the moment. Seared tuna is a really easy go-to! Once it’s seared, I slice it very thin and cover it in garlic-ginger ponzu sauce. It’s really simple and amazingly delicious.

For dinner on the beach on Wickaninnish, we all show up in our boats. My sister will have a dish. I’ll have tuna. My mom will dig up potatoes from the garden, which we’ll wash and put them in a pot over the fire. We’ll have a huge salad out of the garden that’s right beside the campfire. We’ll pick blackberries and have them with whipping cream. We’ve never been rich, but we live in an incredibly rich manner as far as love and food and friends and family go.

Seared Albacore Tuna Loin, courtesy of Quoashinis “Cosy” Lawson


Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1/3 cup (75 mL) ponzu sauce
1 tsp (5 mL) finely chopped garlic
1 tsp (5 mL) grated ginger

1 tuna loin
1/4 cup (60 mL) sesame oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
Freshly cracked pepper to taste

1. In small bowl, mix together ponzu sauce, garlic and ginger. Set aside.

1. Dry loin with paper towel. Drizzle with 2 tbsp (30 mL) sesame oil and rub in. Add pepper all over. (I use about 2 tsp/10 mL, but I like a lot of pepper.)
2. Add vegetable oil to hot pan over medium-high heat; sear loin evenly on all sides, about 2 minutes per side for medium-size loin. Remove to cutting board.
3. Slice loin crosswise into ¼- to ½-inch (5 mm to 1 cm) thick pieces. Remove to dish or plate; drizzle with sauce. Drizzle with remaining sesame oil.

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Okanagan Green Beans: A One-Skillet Recipe You’ll Love

By Sarah Huggins

My childhood summers were spent in the Okanagan region of B.C., where the hot, dry sun produced the most impressive green beans—long, sweet, crisp and juicy. I vividly remember my grandmother sitting on her lakeside patio each evening with a big colander of local green beans on her lap, and a glass of white wine next to her, halving the beans while she regaled us with stories and grandma jokes.

Years later, the taste of green beans is among the most nostalgic flavours for me. One bite transports me right back to my grandma’s patio, to backseat trips to the farmers’ market, and long lazy days spent with my cousins exploring the shores of Okanagan Lake.

I now halve green beans for my own family, and this One Skillet Trout with Green Beans and Almonds is one of our favourite ways to enjoy them. Reminiscent of the infamous “Trout Amandine,” but simpler, it requires only one pan, a handful of basic ingredients and about 30 minutes.

I’ve yet to make this dish for my grandmother, but I’m sure she would love it. With a glass of white wine, of course.

One Skillet Trout with Green Beans and Almonds, Courtesy of Sarah Huggins, kiwiandbean.com, Toronto

A simple rainbow trout supper made easy in the skillet.


Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1 lb (450 g) rainbow trout fillets
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tbsp (45 mL) butter, divided
¾ lb (340 g) green beans, ends trimmed
½ cup (125 mL) sliced almonds (or whole almonds, roughly chopped)
Juice of half a lemon
½ cup (125 mL) chicken broth or white wine

1. Sprinkle trout generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.
2. When butter is hot, but before it begins to brown, add trout, skin side down, to skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until skin starts to crisp; flip trout and continue cooking a few minutes more, or until the trout is almost cooked through. Transfer to large plate or platter and keep warm.
3. Add green beans to hot skillet and cook, tossing, until tender-crisp. Top trout with beans; keep warm.
4. Add almonds to skillet and cook for 1 minute, or until they start to brown. Scatter almonds over beans and trout.
5. Add the lemon juice, broth (or wine) and remaining butter to the skillet, stirring until butter is melted and sauce begins to boil and starts to thicken. Pour sauce over top of trout and beans. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper before serving.

Click to print, save or share this One Skillet Trout with Green Beans and Almonds recipe.

(Cooking For) Kiwi and Bean
(Cooking for) Kiwi & Bean is all about simple, wholesome family recipes: dinners you can create with pantry staples when you walk in the door at the end of the day, breakfasts you can whip up the night before, and snacks and treats that you can make with your kids.

Mac and Cheese: A Canadian Twist on the Classic

By Shep Ysselstein, as told to Michele Sponagle

Shep Ysselstein, owner of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, near Woodstock, Ont., is one of Canada’s brightest young cheese makers. By the time he reached 30, he’d already snagged the top honour at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix for his Five Brothers in the firm-cheese category. (And in April 2015, his Handeck won for best farmhouse cheese at the same competition.) A dairy-inspired life was mapped out for him as a child: His parents still own Friesvale Farms (right next door to Gunn’s Hill), which supplies the milk for Ysselstein’s Swiss-style cheeses. It’s all in the family there.


Alpler macaroni is an old Swiss recipe. “Alpler” is the name for the people who work up in the mountains, milking cows and making cheese. Traditionally, this dish is what they would have eaten. For a summer, when I learned cheese making in the Berner Oberland area of Switzerland, I would have been considered an alpler.

While I was there, the head cheese maker had a friend who was a chef make us the macaroni dish with the cheeses we made. We ate it in a very traditional cheese-making hut: several hundred years old with thick stone walls built into the side of the mountain. It was very rustic and primitive with low ceilings that were black from all the smoke generated by the fire used to produce the cheese. In that space, we cooked and ate our own meals—we even slept upstairs.

When I ate alpler macaroni for the first time, I thought, Wow! I need to know how to make this! Obviously, I’m a big fan of dairy products, and this recipe has a lot of them, drawing flavour from the types of cheese you use.

The chef taught me how to make alpler macaroni, but he didn’t give me a written recipe. So I learned the steps but not specific volumes. He just told me, “If it’s too thick, add a little more milk. Too thin? Add more cheese.”

This dish is a meal—a heavy one. Historically, alplers would not have had access to a lot of foodstuffs since everything would have had to be trekked up the mountain. So they used what they had available, primarily dairy products: milk, butter, cream and cheese. For this dish, they would have just needed to bring dry pasta up the mountain.

When I came back home to Canada, I made it for my family: Mom, Dad and whomever of my four brothers was around. I’ve made it more than once for them, and I make it for different groups of friends, too. I also made it for my wife, Colleen Bator, when we were first dating. It worked out pretty good—she married me eventually.


Alpler Macaroni is my go-to recipe for many occasions. It incorporates the things that are important in my life: my cheese factory in Oxford County; and my summer in Switzerland that helped me become a cheese maker. Plus, our cows make the milk, so it’s special in that way, too. This dish is handcrafted from the very beginning, starting with a cow. The only thing I need to do now is make my own pasta…

Alpler Macaroni and Cheese, courtesy of Shep Ysselstein

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 cup (250 mL) macaroni
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp (15 mL) flour
1 cup (250 mL) (approx) milk
1 cup (250 mL) heavy cream
1 cup (250 mL) (approx) Handeck cheese (18-month cow’s milk Swiss alpine-style cheese)
2 cups (500 mL) (approx) Five Brothers cow’s milk cheese or Appenzeller cheese
pepper and nutmeg to taste

1. In pot of boiling water, cook macaroni; drain.
2. Add butter to large pan; fry onion and garlic until soft. Add flour (to thicken and bind mixture). Add milk and cream. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is warmed throughout and just beginning to bubble.
3. Add Handeck and half of the Five Brothers cheese, 1 small handful at a time, stirring constantly, until cheese is completely melted. Do not boil. Allow to slightly simmer; add pepper and nutmeg. If mixture is too thick, add more milk; if too thin, add more cheese. (You can never have too much cheese!)
4. In buttered baking dish, add half of the macaroni. Pour in half of the cheese mixture; sprinkle on remaining Five Brothers cheese. Add remaining half of macaroni; pour in remaining half of cheese mixture.
5. Bake, uncovered, in 400°F (200°C) oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.

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Grandma’s Date Squares that Taste Like Home

The first time I tasted date squares I was about four years old and I absolutely hated them. But because they were at all of our family events, I eventually grew to love them, asking my grandmother to bake them for my eighth birthday.

To me, date squares taste like home. They’re sort of crunchy with the rolled oats on the outside, while date-filled centre is kind of gooey, especially when you warm them up.


Because Newfoundland is an island, people didn’t always have the luxury of fresh fruit year-round, so canned fruits were always a hot commodity, and many traditional dishes here are made with dates. It was my mother’s mother, Grandma Morrissey, who taught me how to make date squares. I’d say I eat them once or twice a month, if I’m lucky, and at all family events, especially on my grandfather’s birthday. When I make them, I use homemade butter that my father’s mother, Dolores Tobin, taught me to make.

When my father was a child, my Nanny Tobin opened a creamery in Ship Cove, outside of Placentia. They started making butter and called it Spyglass Butter, as she would make prints on top with an old-fashioned wooden stamp shaped like a spyglass. My grandmother gave her kids shares in the creamery when they were young, and to earn their keep, she had them do things like watch the machines and churn the butter.

The photo on the butter label was of my great-aunt: Nanny Tobin’s mother’s sister. As a young girl, my great-aunt had a cream cow named Bessie, and it was her chore to make butter for the family. As she got older, she learned to make stamps of butter. She gave these stamped celebration butters to people for birthdays and holidays.

They were really, really good, so one day when Nanny Tobin was about my age, she asked her sister, “Can you teach me to make them, too?” Nanny said it was the hardest thing she’d ever done because the churning was all done manually, and she wasn’t used to that kind of work. When her aunt passed away, my grandmother continued to make the butter and started her company.

Nanny Tobin’s Spyglass Butter was eventually sold all over Newfoundland and in Ontario, too. The creamery grew so big that today it’s part of Central Dairies, and the butter is no longer made by hand.

Around Christmas, I go to my grandmother’s house where she has a big wooden bucket on the porch and we churn our own butter manually, just as she was taught by her aunt. For my date squares, I buy a lot of Spyglass Butter to bake them with, and that’s what makes them taste so good.

Grandma Morrissey’s Date Squares
Recipe courtesy of Caroline Tobin.


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 ¼ hours
Yield: 12 servings

2 cups (500 mL) dates
1 cup (250 mL) hot water
1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar
1½ cups (375 mL) rolled oats
1 cup (250 mL) flour
¾ cup (175 mL) Spyglass Butter or other butter
1½ tsp (7 mL) baking soda
½ tsp (2 mL) salt

1. In saucepan, combine dates, water and ½ cup (125 mL) of the brown sugar, then let simmer over medium heat until dates are mashable. Give them a stir to ensure the dates have fallen apart completely.
2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, flour, remaining brown sugar, butter, baking soda and salt until crumbly.
3. Divide oat mixture in half. Press half (or slightly more than half) into the bottom of an 8-inch glass baking dish. Spread the entire date mixture overtop, and crumble remaining oat mixture over top.
4. Bake at 350°F for just under 1 hour or until golden brown. Let cool and cut into squares.

Written by Caroline Tobin, as told to Valerie Howes

Caroline Tobin is a young teen living in Mount Pearl, N.L., near St. John’s. Date squares are one of her favourite things to bake because they bring together traditions from both her mother’s and her father’s sides of the family.

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